Hawa Images: Blog http://www.hawaimages.com/blog en-us (C) Hawa Images This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported Lic roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) Thu, 09 Nov 2017 16:12:00 GMT Thu, 09 Nov 2017 16:12:00 GMT http://www.hawaimages.com/img/s/v-5/u351121260-o1004099733-50.jpg Hawa Images: Blog http://www.hawaimages.com/blog 120 80 dancing towards his dreams http://www.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/11/dancing-towards-dreams  I had the opportunity to meet Nigel and his Grandmother Sonya through Kate Danielson; my dear friend and founder of  Foster Progress in Chicago. Foster Progress is the result of immense need for advocacy, mentorship,  & education and I am always excited to partner with them in their good work.  I was excited to partner with Foster Progress to help Nigel tell part of his story through images.....

Nigel is a hard working high school dedicated to dance and hoping this newly realized dream of dancing & performing professionally becomes a reality through the pursuit of studying performance dance in college! We met early on a rainy Saturday morning at Joel Hall dance studio in my old neighborhood in the city where Nigel has been studying and interning to learn as much as he can.  We had a lot of laughs trying to decide exactly what we wanted to capture and include in his portfolio and other dancers would wander in and out offering their help and support. We captured jumps and bends that I could not do even back in my prime (I was gasping behind my lens numerous times)! 

Nigel's warm smile and his affection, love, and respect for his grandmother made capturing his story a blessing! He shared that she was the one who pushed him to try contemporary and ballet when he didn't consider it an option.  Sonya supported Nigel in many ways in his life and dared him to dream big.  And even though he probably prefers the straight faced head shots his contagious laugh reveals so much about him and are my favorite images. As the sunlight grew stronger and our time in the rented studio neared an end ballet dancers for the first class of the day arrived along with Missy; one of Nigel's dance instructors who immediately embraced him and shared how proud she is of all his progress and hard work.  Nigel also bragged on her for having dances on Facebook that went viral and for always believing in him. 

Thanks Nigel & as I told him the day of our storytelling session: when you make it big I want a shout-out! I love partnering with organizations doing so much good in the world- please check out the work of Foster Progress!!  Your stories make this work so worthwhile and I am grateful to have a glimpse into what the future could hold for Nigel. 

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roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) ballet chicago college dance dreams education foster goals mentorship ngo photography portraits progress storyteller visual http://www.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/11/dancing-towards-dreams Wed, 08 Nov 2017 21:59:29 GMT
Early Childhood Education & Adoption Preservation: just 2 ways MFS is empowering http://www.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/10/2waysMFSisempowering

In August I had the privilege to help create images that tell the important stories of Metropolitan Family Services in Chicago. These stories were shared in Metropolitan Family Service's 2017 annual report here.  Partnering with organizations impacting change and empowering folks in their communities is my favorite work to do and I am grateful to be entrusted with these stories! 

MFS's mission is to provide and mobilize the services needed to strengthen families and communities and I have worked with them to see just how that is occurring through their numerous programs that empower the community. Here are just 2 recent stories:

Meeting the first family at MSF's Midway's center began with 2 giggly little girls.  I immediately adored them and their beautiful Mom; Jazmin.  Jazmin is expecting her third little girl soon and told us about how much the Midway Center has meant to her family. At home they primarily speak Spanish at so she really was searching for an affordable, quality childcare center and preschool for her girls; Jayleen, 5, and Guadalupe, 4. 

These sisters clearly adore each other and were so eager to show me their school!

Both girls now attend Midway Children’s Center, and when Jazmin’s third daughter, due in October, is old enough Jazmin plans to enroll her at Metropolitan’s Learning and Wellness Center. Jazmin told me that she really could not work without the support of MFS and their programs!  

I accompanied them to the girl's classroom and it was easy to see why the girls look forward to coming to the center each day. There was singing, hands on play and much excitement in learning! The Midway Children's Center is just one way MFS is supporting & empowering families! 

Adoption Preservation is an area that does not get enough research, support, and resources and I loved hearing about the difference and impact MSF's programs and resources has made on Katie & her family.   Katie's first family struggled with addiction and the home environment was unstable and unsafe.  Katie and her sister eventually came to live with their Aunt Gloria and her family.  The transition was difficult as the girls dealt with trauma and adjusted to their new home. Gloria shared vulnerably that after the adoption she was at the end of her rope, "I could not find anyone willing to help." 

Even though Katie was in a safe home she struggled day to day and their family reached out repeatedly for help only to discover dead ends and frustration amidst their difficulties. Gloria felt alone, frustrated, & desperate.  

For years Gloria used every resource available to her — from hospitals to local agencies — but could not find the support they needed. After calling every agency in the DCFS handbook, she finally reached Tiaira Robinson, a therapist with Metropolitan’s Adoption Preservation program. Gloria said that it did not take long to see that Tiaira was trustworthy and was here for the long haul to help them!! 

For a year now Katie has received therapy, psychiatric services, anger management classes, therapeutic day camp, and weekly visits with a mentor — and Tiaira has applied to extend services for an additional year.

Gloria says she feels peace now knowing that MSF will not leave them without support. These community empowering programs exist because of the good work of Metropolitan Family Services and I am grateful to get to see the impact and tell stories with MFS! 

 

 

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roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) adoption center chicago children's community mfs midway ngo photographer photography preservation services http://www.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/10/2waysMFSisempowering Thu, 19 Oct 2017 15:11:47 GMT
Celebrating The Green Mama's newest book! http://www.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/10/celebrating-the-green-mamas-newest-book Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

Eek!! A Box from Canada arrived today packed with The Green Mama's newest book: Green Mama-to-be: Creating a Happy, Healthly, & Toxin Free Pregnancy by Manda Aufochs Gillespie. Hawa Images and my beautiful clients are featured throughout the book!!

I was so excited to be a part of this project and want to cheer Manda on as she is living her purpose & encouraging and empowering us to live greener!  I am so excited for this Mama and friend from our Chicago days to see her 2nd book published after years of hard work! She has such a gift to help parents see what is possible in caring for our world & our families well! She helped our family in our journey of cloth diapering (without any judgement) & is such an encouraging & loving member of the mama tribe. She is an inspiration!! Check out her website & learn more. I am cheering you on sister!! 

Also, special thanks to my rock-star clients who were willing to lend their images to help tell the story of this book. I'm so grateful to get to do this work I love with families.  

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roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) book bosses green mama photography http://www.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/10/celebrating-the-green-mamas-newest-book Wed, 11 Oct 2017 17:29:15 GMT
promoting peace with my camera in hand http://www.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/9/promoting-peace-with-my-camera-in-hand Images are powerful and can craft, reinforce, undo, or influence our thoughts and beliefs about others.  Images have the potential to dissuade us from fear of the unknown or different and move us toward real love.

When I was asked to share what visual peacemaking means to me*, I was overwhelmed since I still consider myself a beginner in many ways.  But after prayer and discussion, I realized visual peacemaking is not merely an approach or a tool in our belts.  Rather, it is a process of becoming and we should always be learning.  it is more about who you are than simply what you do and in that way I can share; not from a wealth of knowledge but from a common vision.  A vision that strives to partner, build bridges rather than construct walls, and show the beautiful humanity and dignity in the people we encounter.  We can choose to live life evading failure; only attempting what we are comfortable with or a pretty sure we can accomplish.  I admit I can find myself leaning this direction because to step out is to risk.  But it is always worth the journey.  Photography continues to be a journey of risk for me, one that involves intentionally giving of myself and being stretched and changed.

Women pilgrims in the Ganga River. Varanasi, India.Women pilgrims in the Ganga River. Varanasi, India.

Photography sort of happened to me.  It arose from a deep desire I had to tell the stories of women that became my dear friends.  I moved with my family to a small island in East Africa most people cannot find on a map.  I had plans and those plans seemed to explode upon arrival.  I thought I would have an adventure and help some folks along the way.  We were there working to set up and teach in a vocational school and if I am honest I thought I was there to give more than be personally changed but God had a different agenda.  The emotional pain of role deprivation and starting over in a place where I was now a complete idiot in the ways of daily life was very real and painful.  It was humbling, but as I embraced that more and more it also allowed for a remaking and remolding in my life.  I realized you cannot serve people you don't know and love.  You cannot be trusted with their stories until you invest in their lives.  And I so needed the people there to help me forge this new life.  In the process of allowing others to help me, I realized that I was there to learn more than to teach, There was such joy in the friendships I found there because they were not formed merely because of similar culture backgrounds and shared views of life.  My friendships on our island were forged through difference and a decision to move towards mutual respect and love.

Elimu. A morning at the local nursery school. Chukwani, Zanzibar.Elimu. A morning at the local nursery school. Chukwani, Zanzibar.

For a long time I chose not to photograph my friends unless asked because I really wanted to communicate I loved them more than the image.  To me visual peacemaking means spending time with people and really trying to see them.  We all want to be seen and heard.  And that seeing evokes in us common human emotions that deeply connect us all and compels us to share. This is why I so desperately wanted to participate in sharing their stories through photography and began to study and practice.  I really believe the posture with which we engage people is more important than all the technical skills in the world.  As I was wrecked with my friends' stories, I wanted to capture the mundane and the beautiful, the joy co-mingled with deep pain and suffering because it was a way to really see them and connect our lives as I searched for meaning in it all.  I was not "ready" to live there and learn to love in ways that cost me personally, to start over, to be stretched in the ways required of me, but that is exactly where God wanted me.  And photography became one way I found and continue to find peace even in the midst of chaos.

Preparing the day's catch. Tuk Kae village, Phuket, Thailand.Preparing the day's catch. Tuk Kae village, Phuket, Thailand.

I think sometimes as photographers we can focus on the outcome and capturing "the" image but for me this often leads to me missing precisely the moments that are meant to bring understanding and promote peace.  I think we all need to spend more time sitting on dirt floors eating rice and chapati with our hands and less time thinking about the perfect lighting and setting up tripods. Of course the final product is important and we honor our friends and those that invite us into their lives by striving towards excellence, but we cannot authentically communicate care and love if we do not invest in people.  And maybe we should measure our success more in people with whom we have shared each other's sacred stories rather than just in the number of beautiful images.

a woman working. Harna, India.a woman working. Harna, India.

I recently heard a speaker say, "The opposite of love is not hate, it is fear," and this really struck me.  It reminded me of the verse in scripture that declares "perfect love expels all fear."  We can fear what we do not understand and with photography I want to intentionally make choices to move from fear of the unknown or different to "perfect love".  Visual peacemaking is first moving yourself in order that we may encourage others to move.  But to do that we have to allow people's stories to burrow deep in our hearts.  We have to have sleepless nights thinking about their challenges and pain.  We have to accompany them as they celebrate and rejoice with them.  We have to eat their food, hold their babies, trust them to hold ours, pray, dance, laugh, and cry together.  Because that is the sacred stuff of life and that grants us permission and bestows upon us the responsibility to share our common humanity. 

lighting offerings  at sunrise. Varanasi, India.lighting offerings at sunrise. Varanasi, India.

Blessings on your journey, Roxanne

*this post has been adapted but was originally published as a guest blog on International Guild of Visual Peacemakers. 

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roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) cultural humanitarian motivation peacemaking photography travel visual http://www.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/9/promoting-peace-with-my-camera-in-hand Sat, 23 Sep 2017 01:13:55 GMT
Meet Ibtisam http://www.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/9/meet-ibtisam

I climbed three flights of stairs stepping over lovely green plants decorating the apartment building to Ibtisam & Ali's home to meet the woman I had heard so much about. I had searched out her designs online long before we had the chance to meet and I just loved the color and detail in her work.  Her designs bring a modern Arabic flare to Western fashion and I was grateful to be asked to help document her business on my photography story telling assignment for World Relief.  More than just view her designs I wanted to sit with and listen to the woman who had the courage and strength to pursue her dreams using her seamstress & design talent after so much change and difficulty. Ibtisam & her husband Ali warmly welcomed myself and a World Relief staffer; Tim to their home with sweets already set out for us.  We greeted each other and began sharing and I was immediately struck with, and grateful for, their openness and willingness to share so much of their story.  

Ibtisam and Ali are from Iraq and both had successful businesses in their home country. Ibtisam designed and sewed everything from elaborate gowns to home decor such as curtains and employed 6 people in her shop.  Ali started and ran an aquarium deign and installation company.  He ran the only shop of this kind in his hometown and had to learn as he went, even showing us his scares from broken glass the first time he learned to install floor to ceiling fish tanks.  His fondness of these memories is so clear in his telling of them.  They lived among family and friends and built lives they were proud of in Iraq.  

The war changed their daily lives completely.  They fled to Jordan an Ibtisam had to leave behind a business she had spent the last 20 years building.  In Jordan they were undocumented and this meant they had to scrape together money to live, Ibtisam tearing up telling us that she often had to do so many alternations for the equivalent of 25 cents.  Life was very hard for them those 4 1/2 years in Jordan as they lived under constant fear they would be sent back or killed. Ibtisam's older and younger brother were both violently killed and Ali was in contact with former neighbors who had heard death threats against Ali and others. Realizing there was no hope of returning to Iraq in the near future Ali applied to the United Nations in Jordan.  As we listened to him tell us about the process he shared he really took a risk not knowing even what he was applying for, "I just knew we cannot make the life here and we cannot go home."  

They were contacted by the UN and were called to come in- for what they did not know.  They both were separately interviewed by UN representatives from 7am until 7pm about their stories that first time.  Ali said he thought the interviewer was tough and he worried she hated him because of the intensity of the interview.  Ibitisam agreed that retelling everything and being asked specific details apart from her husband was nerve-wracking.  They did not know it then but this and the subsequent 3 interviews that were to come were the beginnings of the refugee screening process. After months of waiting and hearing nothing they gathered outside the UN to await the posting of a list.  They described thousands of people in a crush of others waiting and praying their name appeared on this list.  They saw their names.  At this point as they told their story they both paused, held hands, and teared up.  It was clear that looking back this one moment held so much hope and at the same time anxiety for what this would mean for them.  

 

Ali and Ibitsam had no idea where they would be relocated and what this would mean for them.  They learned they were assigned to the United States and while they felt relief they also held in that complicated emotions of panic about starting again in a new country where they did not speak the language.  Ali asked, "How will I do this life in the U.S.?" They arrived at O’hare in 2008 with 8 other families and with the help of World Relief resettled in this area.  Just as the many refugee clients that come to the U.S., their stories do not begin when they arrive here with their IOM bag in hand and they also do not end with arriving in their new country of resettlement.  Just to be away from immediate danger is not the end.  There is so much rebuilding, cultural and language learning, healing, and life to live yet. There is such much to be negotiated about embracing new and holding on to old.  As I sit with refugee clients and listen to their stories I am always impacted by the rich lives they left behind.  The vivid memories they share of lives and loves and hardships and joys that they were forced to flee. Ali and Ibitisam shared many more sacred details of their lives and Tim and I listened, asked questions, and sat as witnesses to the rich lives they have lived and are living.  I apologized to them for having to recount so many painful details but Ali quickly shook his head and said "no, you cannot forget these hard times."  Sharing stories validates the ones sharing and allows the listeners to be stretched to embrace more of our human family and be reminded each of our stories matter too. We sensed that in some of the retelling there is also some healing.      

Ali and Ibtisam continue to learn English and more about American culture (we had some laughs about this process) and make amazing use of the resources available to them here.  Ibitisam restarted her business here and it quickly began growing.  She realized she wanted to pursue a college degree in at a local community college since her training mostly has come from Ali's mother back home in Iraq and her vast experience.  She currently studies in the fashion design program and has already been awarded Most Outstanding Freshman Designer of the year!  She shared s story at the recent World Relief Spotlight Event that her instructor could not believe the detail work she completed on a wedding dress in only a week. She laughs telling this story because she misunderstood the due date and although she had all semester thought she only had a week to complete it!  She asked her to do it AGAIN during class time just  to see and show the other students her technique!   One of my favorite moments was when Ibtisam was recalled how nervous she was to arrive in the U.S.,  "I had no English so I wore this badge so nothing will happen to me." She wore a badge around her neck that gave information on who to call if she got lost because when she arrived she could not communicate in English.  She produced this badge from a back room in their apartment within 2 minutes and showed it off. We all laughed about how far she and Ali have come since that day.  How they can tell their story in English, welcome us to their home in America, and share about running a business here.  

They run her business, Ibtisam Sewing, out of their apartment and Ali helps her with design (including designing and printing her custom labels).  He beams when he talks about Ibtisam and her successes. 

About 3 hours later we left their home with promises to return soon (which I will because I think I am needing a new bag :) and as we made our way back down the stairs and as I edited and culled through images I reflected on how grateful I am to be involved in this work.  This good work of listening to stories, of being present with folks who make our country richer and stronger.  I am grateful to Ibtisam and Ali for welcoming me and graciously sharing their lives and I look forward to watching more of their story unfold.  

 

Please check out Ibitsam sewing!!!   

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roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) america entrepreneurs iraq refugees relief welcome world http://www.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/9/meet-ibtisam Fri, 15 Sep 2017 16:12:13 GMT
Meet Peter http://www.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/8/meet-peter

I met Peter last year when I captured images of his father in their home (and met his adorable weeks old baby!) & I had the privilege of visiting him again a few weeks ago in his new office for a story on refugee entrepreneurs for World Relief.

Peter arrived in the US in 2007 and only 10 years later has published a book to empower home buyers in the Burmese community, has a real estate business, & has founded a non-profit organization to help Burmese folks in his country. Learn more about Peter's story here. 

Peter will be one of more than 20 businesses highlighted at World Relief's event on September 7th, Spotlight on Refugee and Immigrant Entrepreneurs. Come join me to hear many more stories of entrepreneurial spirit and community impact. Register here. See you there!

 

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roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) immigrant refugees relief welcome world http://www.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/8/meet-peter Wed, 30 Aug 2017 19:52:06 GMT
creating art with sand & light http://www.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/8/creating-art-with-sand-light I enjoyed meeting artist Mark Demel in his home and capturing the unique way he uses sand and light to create art.  He taught himself this art form and can create an entire scene so quickly it really is amazing! The images will be used for a publication around Christmas time. 

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roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) art artist christmas light sand http://www.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/8/creating-art-with-sand-light Mon, 07 Aug 2017 18:18:03 GMT
football, bracelets, & building friendships: Summer Youth Clubs with World Relief http://www.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/7/football-bracelets-building-friendships-summer-youth-clubs-with-world-relief

Last Friday was the last day of our Summer Youth Clubs for World Relief Dupage/Aurora. The summer program brought together kids and young adults from Burma, Iran, Sudan, Syria, and several other countries. I was invited to capture the kids learning together, crafting (and I may have tied Many-a-bracelets :), bonding with volunteers, learning to play American football, and making new friends.  These programs are so important as World Relief helps refugee families adjust and feel confident in America. I loved watching the volunteers giving high fives to kids after their first touch down and the kids playing together with other kids from opposite ends of the globe who now share a common experience.   

Local churches host these clubs and these programs are staffed by volunteers committed to World' relief's vision of partnering with local churches and volunteers to provide hope to those whose lives have been disrupted by violence and persecution. Learn more about getting involved here. 

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roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) aurora chicago dupage refugees relief volunteer world http://www.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/7/football-bracelets-building-friendships-summer-youth-clubs-with-world-relief Tue, 18 Jul 2017 19:03:23 GMT
Anchored in Hope:Volunteer Appreciation with World Relief http://www.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/5/anchored-in-hope-volunteer-appreciation-with-world-relief

World Relief Dupage/Aurora thanked the many volunteers that make their work with refugees and immigrants possible Friday night with a celebration that included food & performances from around the world (the food y'all!!). There were food stalls from 9 countries serving small portions of ethnic food, great discussions around the tables, roaring applause as different groups shared their cultural dances with us all, salsa lessons for the brave, henna, & jump houses and face painting for the kids. Seeing so many people gathered who are involved year round with welcoming refugees and immigrants in big and small ways was special. The executive director offered a prayer and thanked everyone present because without volunteers the good work of World Relief is not possible! Seeing folks from so many cultures enjoying and celebrating each other in one place is a beautiful thing. The theme was anchored in hope and it was a night that serves as a great reminder that we work for the good of all people because we have hope in the future. 

I'm grateful to be a part of this important work.

Here is our squad enjoying the night!

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roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) Relief World humanitarian immigrants photography refugees volunteer http://www.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/5/anchored-in-hope-volunteer-appreciation-with-world-relief Mon, 01 May 2017 18:05:22 GMT
Easter People http://www.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/4/easter-people

Easter was so special. Our daughter Evangeline told part of her story which; as we were reminded that morning, is the story God is writing in her, in all of us. She was baptized surrounded by friends and family and friends who are family. She had the most amazing mentor; Katie who poured into her, shared with vulnerability and beauty her own story, loved her, encouraged, and challenged Evy. We all cried so much our heads hurt and smiled so much our faces are sore. It was all blessing & we are so grateful to God for the Good Good work He is doing.

I love capturing events that are part of our story, part of our culture, our beliefs, and who we are.....being behind the camera this time was even harder to hold it together because it was our family and I had ALL the FEELS!! We are Easter people! 

sister love.....and we are criers! Celebrating New Life!!

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roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) Easter event family photographer photography special http://www.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/4/easter-people Tue, 18 Apr 2017 18:31:44 GMT
brave young women & those standing with them http://www.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/4/braveyoungwomenthosestandingwiththem

When I first wrote an email to International Justice Mission about our trip to Thailand and my desire to partner with them I knew it was a long shot but the small voice inside me had become too loud to ignore in the weeks and months that preceded that moment so, with latte in hand sitting at my computer while my son played trains at my feet I wrote an email.  I had heard about IJM's work in rescuing and advocating for young women that had been violently abused and trafficked.  This is an epidemic that we can forget exists in our small corner of the world.  But for our family the issue of sexual abuse and the brokenness of the systems set up to protect victims was becoming all too real.  After I read The Locust Effect I could not shake the stories. I had heard the statistics about this epidemic and while they would momentarily arouse me from my affluent and privileged stupor I would soon fill my lives with the immediate. But the stories of girls the ages of our girls that had been abused, trafficked, and/or raped and then even after rescue had no recourse for true justice left me sleepless and wondering if we really believe ALL people are created in His image because our (and my own) inaction tell a different story.  "Sexual violence is a truly global epidemic that leaves millions around the world terrified in their homes, schools and neighborhoods. Sexual violence can include rape, molestation and other forms of sexual abuse. Although anyone can be a victim of sexual violence, this form of violence most frequently impacts women and girls—and impoverished women and girls are particularly vulnerable." -IJM. After several more "coincidences" of mentions of IJM's work in a podcast or a book a friend recommended that mentioned IJM I decided to see if I could use this passion for photography to help IJM tell these important stories.

When I got the email response that I would be photographing young women who were bravely fighting through the broken systems to seek justice in their cases I just sat at my computer reading and rereading the specifics (that I cannot share here) of their stories. They were now young women I would meet and be trusted to capture part of their story and that felt weighty. I sensed then and experienced even more after traveling to Thailand the importance of the HOPE that can come from people standing together to fight injustices, to use their collective voices to join in to say these young women and their families and their stories MATTER.  It was an amazing privilege to meet the brave men and women who work for IJM; many of whom have to keep their identities a secret because of the potential risk to their lives. The support for their clients in court and through after care is remarkable.  I learned rescue is only a small part of the story.  It was a gift to meet the young women making brave choices in the face of grave evil and injustice to believe and show us all that hope and justice ARE POSSIBLE. The few images here are from one story I covered while in Thailand and these images protect these young women's identities as their cases are ongoing. IJM will share more as the cases progress and hopefully I can share more about the important work of IJM through images and stories soon.  

After spending time with IJM employees and clients in Thailand I was changed. I am still processing and learning and trying to find my way amidst what God is showing me.  Seeking justice is bold and brave in world that seeks to devalue women and girls.  Seeking justice is difficult because systems, families, and in our very selves there is deep brokenness. Seeking justice is powerful because it communicates that we are all human and therefore valuable and precious by our birth right as beings created in the image of our Creator.     Learn more about IJM's good work in preventing, advocating for, and helping victims of sexual violence heal here

"IJM is an international human rights agency that supports the world's largest corps of local, indigenous advocates providing direct service to impoverished victims of violent abuse and oppression in the developing world." Gary Haugen in The Locust Effect. 

This image reminds me that we can choose to be distracted from the issues of justice for all people because there will always be life moving quickly all around us but truly looking and choosing to SEE and Hear the stories can change us. Friends- please join me to pray! Educate yourself! Mourn injustice (but do not stop there)! Pray! Act! Advocate! 

April is sexual assault awareness month so after reading more and seeing Griselda's* story my older girls wanted to get involved in making a difference! The result: Baked Goods for the Good!  If you are local and would like to support Annikah's efforts to Be the Good please reach out!  

 

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roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) April IJM Thailand awareness humanitarian photographer photography sexual violence http://www.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/4/braveyoungwomenthosestandingwiththem Thu, 06 Apr 2017 22:59:32 GMT
Spring Mini Lifestyle Sessions are HERE! http://www.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/3/spring-mini-lifestyle-sessions-are-here You asked & Spring Mini Lifestyle Sessions are finally here!! Yay!! Only 1 day this year so contact me asap if you are interested- they will go quickly. These 20 min mini sessions are a perfect way to update a family portrait, create an image for a card or special event, or just to have a few special moments captured. I would LOVE to work with you to capture you & your family!

Sessions available at 8am, 8:30am(BOOKED), 9am, 9:30am, 10am, 10:30am.

 

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roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) children's family mini photography sessions spring http://www.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/3/spring-mini-lifestyle-sessions-are-here Wed, 29 Mar 2017 14:41:49 GMT
treasures, sun, sand, & waves http://www.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/3/treasures-sun-sand-waves Beach life is the good life if you ask me.  I learned to appreciate the healing and calming waves, salty air, & sandy toes on a small island many miles away in East Africa but I will always adore the beach. Anywhere she is found.  The beach is like therapy for me. There is just always something about it vastness and my smallness that makes me remember how big God is and how much we are blessed to get to feel the warm sand beneath our toes as we look out into the blue depths and marvel at creation.  

I wanted to capture some of the details of our day at what many call "Shark Teeth Beach" or Caspersen Beach in Venice, Florida.  This place is pretty amazing and even gets mention in National Geographic for being the "shark tooth capital of the world." My kids left the beach that day with ziplock baggies full of "treasures" and I left with these images that I treasure of a day spent in the wind, waves, and sand. Happy Spring break friends!!

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roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) Florida beach break childhood family photography spring vacation http://www.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/3/treasures-sun-sand-waves Tue, 28 Mar 2017 20:39:45 GMT
Kids March to say "We Welcome Refugees" in Chicago http://www.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/3/kids-march-to-say-we-welcome-refugees-in-chicago

Yesterday my girls and I headed to the "Bean" officially known as Cloud Gate in Chicago to join with kids who organized a march to show our support for refugees and refugee resettlement to our area.  It was a small way we; as World Relief volunteers, can use our voices to say "We Welcome Refugees!" and will continue to do so. I was proud of my girls and it was cool to see the kids who organized the event share and lead us all into activism.  Children exercising their rights as citizens to advocate for vulnerable people is so awesome to see!

Learn more about welcoming refugees here and more about volunteering with World Relief here. 

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roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) Chicago kids march refugees relief world http://www.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/3/kids-march-to-say-we-welcome-refugees-in-chicago Mon, 27 Mar 2017 16:57:35 GMT
SIVs tell their stories http://www.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/3/sivs-tell-their-stories Last week many gathered in Cafe K'Tizo (umm, try the vanilla herbal tea latte!!) to hear some of the stories of those who have come to the United States through the Special Immigrant Visa Program (commonly know as SIVs).   Hearing some of the stories of Afghani and Iraqi translators and military who helped U.S. troops puts a face to the SIVs program.  Ali (far left above) was the first Iraqi to arrive to World Relief Dupage Aurora through the SIVs program.  Since that time 36 Iraqis have arrived through WRDA with SIVs starting in 2009 and 26 Afghans since 2014.  Throughout America's many years of presence in other countries our military relies heavily on upon the support of Afghan and Iraqi nationals.  Many have served as interpreters, engineers, security guards, cultural advisors, and other roles.  Groups like the Taliban and Iraqi death squads have been known to show no mercy to these individuals and often they fear daily for their security.  Many SIVs apply for the program after their lives or their family's lives are threatened for their involvement with aiding our troops overseas.  Many arrive in the U.S. with strong English skills, advanced education, and professional experience. As the current changes to the refugee program are debated this event helped highlight the importance to the SIVs program as these folks have risked their lives to help the United States.    

Wasim shared passionately about his adjustment to life in the United States including profusely thanking his job skills teacher who was sitting in the front row to support him.  He also teared up sharing about his hopes to save enough money to bring his family here in the future. 

Muzghan shared about her life as a woman working on a base in Afghanistan and the struggles she faced there because of her involvement with the U.S. military as a woman.  She is extremely proud that here in the United States she can work freely. 

Ali, who speaks 4 languages and currently works as a electronics consultant ended the night with a plea for mutual understanding and compassion.  "We're all human beings, we're just people. Everyone needs to know that in Iraq, there are good, hard-working people, and many of them right now are suffering."

I am grateful to partner with WRDA to help them tell these important stories! 

The Chicago Tribune also covered the event and some of Hawa Image's photographs of the evening were published (see & read more here.

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roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) Chicagoland Immigration Relief SIVs Wheaton World refugees http://www.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/3/sivs-tell-their-stories Tue, 07 Mar 2017 18:04:00 GMT
Buddha's view of Phuket http://www.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/2/big

We knew that taking the winding road to the top of the Nakkerd Hills would be an adventure when we hopped on our rented scooter to explore the most famous and revered landmark in Phuket, Thailand. The trip up was beautiful with views of Phuket town disappearing and turning to thick forest as we past small villages and shops.  It was also a bit daring when the sharp turns and gravel roads meant some squeals (ok screams...sorry J) from me sitting on the back of the motorbike!  The Big Buddha sits atop the hills and at 45 meters tall the Big Buddha has 360 degrees views of Phuket town, Karon beaches, and Chalong Bay. The construction of Big Buddha is still ongoing with the inside rooms filled with tourists able to purchase tiles that will be a permanent part of the structure. It is said that this construction has already cost 8 million to 11 million Thai Bhat (about 280,000 US dollars).  Many come to see the views, tour the structure, and offer prayers.  This was on of our last days in Thailand and the views and the folks we met were amazing.     

Grateful for the opportunity to explore Phuket, Thailand. I came across a list of unusual travel words and "coddiwomple" so resonated with me.  I am so drawn to travel and exploring and my purpose is always to learn more about the Creator's world, hear people's stories, and discover more about myself, others, and who God is. This travel is purposeful but always seems towards a vague destination, one not even clear to me most times.  A destination that slowly reveals itself more and more I learn and am stretched.  I know that stories matter and the more I learn the more I will not settle for a singular voice but rather are pulled towards the diversity of the world and other's experiences to understand my own story.  I am always seeking more, and hopeful of what He is teaching me in these adventures.

Where do you long to go? What is your purpose when traveling?

Happy travels friends, Roxanne   

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roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) Big Buddha Phuket Thailand photography travel http://www.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/2/big Mon, 13 Feb 2017 19:37:44 GMT
celebrating in Chinatown! the year of the rooster. http://www.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/2/celebrating-in-chinatown-the-year-of-the-rooster

I always love exploring Chicago's Chinatown and one of the busiest and best days to explore and experience Chinatown is on the day of the lunar new year parade.  Chicago is a city of neighborhoods that all have unique history and characteristics that make them special and vibrant and I feel blessed to live so close to an amazing city. This year it was not cold and snowy so it meant many more people than usually lined the streets of S. Wentworth & Cermak.  We had a fabulous lunch after the parade and walked around browsing shops and taking in the sights, smells, & sights of Chinatown.  

Chinese Lunar New Year parade. The year of the rooster 2017. Chinatown, Chicago.Chinese Lunar New Year parade. The year of the rooster 2017. Chinatown, Chicago.

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roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) Chicago Chinatown Lunar New Parade Year http://www.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/2/celebrating-in-chinatown-the-year-of-the-rooster Tue, 07 Feb 2017 21:33:35 GMT
"...a peaceful life for my family." http://www.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/2/-a-peaceful-life-for-my-family

Being here in the U.S. is everything for my family,” said Ammar. “It is school for my children, health care for my son, and a peaceful life for my family.

As I approached this family's front door and I could hear the TV inside blaring with Inauguration Day 2017 ceremonies.  We were introduced, talked through a translator and another volunteer with World Relief, drank wonderfully sugary chai, and discussed their first few weeks in America as the TV behind us was showed the motorcades and ceremony to make Trump our next president.  Now, just weeks from that morning the refugee program has been suspended for at least 120 days.  A program that just allowed this family to arrive here in the U.S. to continue their journey towards safety and peace.  As I volunteer with World Relief I learn again and again that people only leave their homes if their home means danger or death.  It is not a choice for refugees to leave, but the last resort or a difficult choice made in hopes of saving their children and lives. This family and their 5 children lived in Aleppo, Syria before their community was bombed, including their daughter's school that she only was able to attend for one day until it became a pile of rubble. After realizing their family was unsafe and in danger they packed a few belongings and headed for Turkey where they have stayed for the past 4 years. Life was difficult for them there and Ammar and his sons had to work 12 hour days at textile factory.  Their children were unable to attend school and as the situation in Syria got worse they realized they need to apply for refugee status if their children were to have an opportunity for a better life and an education.

After over a year of background checks, extensive interviews, and vetting this family was given refugee status and approved to resettle in the U.S.  A local church helped furnish their new rental home and volunteers are welcoming them to our area.  I arrived at their home in time to see their children get off the big bright yellow school bus.  These parents were shocked to learn their son with special needs was able to attend a program at a local public school along with their other children. I watched them proudly unpack his backpack with folders and papers with his name on them. These moments are the reason the refugee program is so important. I am blessed to be a small part of telling these stories because the people behind the political arguments and posturing matter. This family is seeking a peaceful life here in America and they will face many real challenges (limited English, their oldest son is still in Turkey hoping to be reunited with them, & the sometimes daunting adjusting to the culture in America). As they continue their story here I hope and pray they sense they are welcome. And safe.        

Read more on this family's story in the latest World Relief Dupage/Aurora January Newsletter.  

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roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) Chicagoland Syria USA refugees relief we welcome world http://www.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/2/-a-peaceful-life-for-my-family Thu, 02 Feb 2017 20:54:50 GMT
telling your story: hanging at the library http://www.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/1/hanging-at-the-library After my last post about getting in the frame as Mamas many of you reached out and offered your experiences and asked great questions (I will get back to everyone I promise)! Thanks for learning along with me! We make each other better on this storytelling journey.  A few folks requested help in telling your stories and since I am taking on a challenge to document my kid's lives in 5 images a week I am excited to share some of what I have learned photographing over the last few years.  I am always still learning but I have found taking risks in telling my story and encouraging others helps me grow so thanks for joining me! I started studying photography because I wanted to tell the stories of the amazing people I lived and loved among in Africa and to better capture our family's story as our kids grew up in a place so different than where they were born.  And I feel in love with photography as a medium that both told the story of a time and place AND simultaneously allowed me to have a voice in how that story was told.  My subjects vary for Hawa Images but I always want to take the time to learn and understand how best to communicate their story. My family gives me unlimited opportunity to tell stories and I am working on creating memories in images with them more.  And while I ADORE wandering the streets of Chiang Mai, Thailand seeking stories I have also found the compelling story in our home is beautiful and worth telling.  I hope this encourages you to tell your beautiful, messy story!     

Capturing this time when our littles are still growing; when their chubby hands have troubled placing the puzzle pieces, when their clothing choices have more to do with twirling possibilities than the weather outside, and when their world still consists of so many firsts is an amazing opportunity.

Documenting this time is just so important.  I wanted to share a short series of images made at our local library this week on a rainy day. We love the library and our kids always have a library card long before they can read.  We go at least once a week and sometimes more (in Chicagoland winter for sure) and we fill our canvas bag with adventures and new worlds and important stories that spill out from the pages into our hearts and minds.  The kids adore the children's area with computer games, read aloud books, fun little nooks to look at new books, and shelves of possibilities.  I wanted to tell that story so I brought along my camera and my 35mm lens and am sharing our story in hopes you will feel inspired to capture yours!  Be encouraged that any outing can be an opportunity to tell your story!! There are so many concepts and techniques that help us tell our story whether we are using an iphone or a professional camera.  Here are a few concepts that can make for better storytelling when capturing your right now:

1.  Capture Real Emotion: This was true for the above image....Sure I had to wait a while and then encourage the silliness but being patience meant I could capture a moment when our two littlest were cracking each other up. Of course I strive for tack sharp images in gorgeous light but true emotion is JUST AS IMPORTANT. Real emotion that captures personalities or mannerisms are priceless especially because our kids change so fast. And do not just focus on the giggles....as any parents of toddlers know well we spend just as much time in the trenches trying to comfort the tears because "me no get to push the button" or similar tragedies.  These are some of my FAVORITE images. I made this image as we were leaving the library because the struggle got so real when it was time to leave (did I mention my kids LOVE the library?)

2. Focus On Details: My son's face is blurred by using a lower Aperture (or Fstop) because I only wanted to tell the story of his chubby little hands holding the building pieces against the lighted board.  Sometimes just focusing on one thing helps you tell the story especially when part of a set of images. It narrows our focus and excludes distracting things like the cart of books next to him. The image below I only focused on my daughter's book selections because I want to remember she always thinks she can read these all in one week (and every week I remind her to just select a few).  

3. Use Your Surroundings to Communicate Time & Place:  The above images are clearly made in a library because I chose to include book shelves in the frames but they also tell the story of my kids; their size relative to what surrounds them. Abishai is just as tall as the book shelves as he rounds the corner in search of book about trucks! In the image below I wanted to capture the face Evy makes when she is concentrating because she always sticks out her tongue and it is just so her right now. I got down on her level and included the shelves of books to place her in the library.  

4. Use Natural Framing or Leading Lines: These are techniques of composition that make images more attractive to our eyes.  In the first image in this post I used the bright green nook to frame the kids reading their books.  I noticed this would make a great natural frame and asked the kids to sit there while reading their books.  In the above image Evy was flipping through books and I moved to the floor and shot at her level to capture the bookshelves behind her that naturally framed her. The image below is similar in that I used the repetitive books on the shelf to lead our eyes to my subject (Evy searching for books). 

5. Change Up Your POV: When capturing a moment ask yourself "Can I adjust my perspective to tell this story in a more interesting or unexpected way?" My son was listening to an audio book on the computer so I first got down on his level and then stood behind him and captured the moment from above showing details.  The composition is changed and the look and feel of the image can be changed as well. If you are capturing children getting down to their eye level can drastically affect your images and help tell better stories of this time in their lives. Just rotate around your subject and shoot from behind or above.  I actually wished I had captured his little feet not yet touching the floor on the chair (next time!!) Sometimes it is just trying new things and seeing what you like.     

Be adventurous, be observant, and try new things!! It is how we all learn. I would have missed the little butt crack precious-ness (it is a word right?) if I was not on the floor looking at books with my son and capturing him returning the books to the shelves and watching every. single. time. when he would insist on carrying too many and drop them and then bend down to pick them up- perfect moment to capture his sweet toddler booty. 

 

Thanks friends!! Get out there and tell your beautiful, messy right now! 

What are your favorite stories to tell? What do you want to learn more about?    

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roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) Mama candid childhood composition daily images leading life lifestyle lines photography story techniques telling http://www.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/1/hanging-at-the-library Thu, 19 Jan 2017 03:07:27 GMT
Get in the frame Mama! http://www.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/1/get-in-the-frame-mama I don't do New Year's resolutions mostly because I know I will fail by day 2 and feel terrible (true story of my lack of self control).  But I do love envisioning life and business and dreaming and my Passion Planner is so great at reminding me to do this every few months.  From my scribbles and dreaming this week I formulated some goals and one for me is to be in the frame more and to tell the story of this season of our lives more.  I spend so much time making images and I am very rarely in the frame unless it is a cheesy selfie with my crew.   I love telling stories through images for families and organizations but I spend most of my time mothering and my real life is often neglected in my images. I want to be more intentional about telling our story.  

So today I decided to just start. It did not matter that I have not washed my hair in 2 days or that my house was (ok is) a mess. There is always an excuse but I want my kids to look back at images and remember the time we had together while they were at home more than they were in the world.  Everyday after the Y my boy and I have lunch and read books before he heads up for a nap.  Today I captured some of these moments & I am including my process here if you are wanting to capture more of YOUR beautiful & messy story:

*  Set the self timer on your camera or get a remote.  If you have never done this or cannot remember how or if you are like "my friend" and never cracked your manual just google it! Just type in your camera make and model and "set self timer" and you can find directions (sometimes even a video) or the manual and follow the instructions.  You can also invest in an inexpensive remote like this one for less than $10 to control your camera's shutter (Amazon and me are BFFs). This step alone will help you be in the frame more!!

*Look for a location in your home with natural window light or a light source. In my case I used both to capture these images. Having some light and dark contrast can make an image more emotive and interesting so try to avoid just using a flash or overhead lighting only. Then set the camera on a chest or bookshelf, etc.  You do not need a tripod! I just set this on a chest in our living room (just be sure to look through the view finder and make a test shot to make sure everything you want is in the frame).   

*Clear away the clutter not related to your story.  This is not about creating a perfect image but you do want the focus of your image to be clear and let's face it my daughter's school papers and my 7 books stacked on the end table would take away in this case.  They were not the subject I did not want to include them because they had too much visual mass (a fancy photography term meaning they pulled attention from my subject).  However, I did NOT clear away my son's toys or my coffee cup on the table because those helped tell the story of exactly what was happening just before these images were made.

* Embrace YOU- I think for us women especially this can be the most difficult part. As I work with families I hear so often from other mamas "can you make me look thinner?", "I hate being in the picture", or "I take the worst pictures just focus on the kids" but what I want to tell you is the same thing I am preaching to myself: You are a beautiful creation of God.  You are part of this story! Embrace it because that is what is key to telling your story and the mess and beauty of it.  Does that mean I never delete an image with my 5 chins: No! (#truth) or I do not work hard to choose flattering poses for my clients: of course not!! But it does mean that I am learning to be kinder to myself because life cannot wait until you or I lose 10 pounds or have the perfect house or fill in the blank thing about yourself you want to change.  My wrinkles are a sign of a life lived with tons of laughter and tears and I am learning to celebrate that.  We are Mamas NOW, right now. So sure,  wear a top you like, curl a few pieces of hair (if you are like someone I know *Ahem* who had some serious post workout hair going on, but GET IN THE FRAME WITH YOUR KIDS.  You are their Mama and these are the moments to tell that story.  

I would love to see your images! What other basic photography questions do you have about documenting your life?     

   

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roxanne@hawaimages.com (Hawa Images) camera daily documenting frame journalistic life mama motherhood photo self style the timer tutorial within http://www.hawaimages.com/blog/2017/1/get-in-the-frame-mama Thu, 12 Jan 2017 20:04:25 GMT